In this interview Josh St. Germain and Todd Leban talk about AMPt Community, which is one of the leading mobile photography communities and a great resource for anyone who wants to connect with other mobile photographers. In this interview you’re going to learn more about the amazing work Josh and Todd are doing as a part of AMPt Community leadership team.
In a nutshell, what is AMPt Community and what are its main features?
Todd & Josh: AMPt Community is a global network of mobile photographers that have come together to teach, learn, share and inspire. Our main features include blog posts, discussion forums, bi-weekly chats, image features, member features, and a photo gallery of images shared by our members. After one year in operation as a community, we have close to 30,000 images that have been shared on our site.
When a mobile photographer joins AMPt Community, they have the opportunity to connect with other members, create content, discuss trends and innovations within the mobile genre, and to share imagery. One of the main goals of our leadership team is to connect members with opportunities that they may have not had outside of the site. This includes conducting interviews, writing articles, beta testing mobile apps, exhibitions, and so much more!
Tell us a bit about the history of AMPt Community. What were the reasons why it was founded?
Todd: Before the inception of AMPt, its founder Frank Mathews was working with a group of IGers that banded together to expose Instagram users that were stealing images and posting them as their own. However, the daily contact with such negativity influenced Frank to come up with a more positive solution.
He reached out to a group of top mobile photographers and asked them to share their editing tips with the entire IG community. The goal was to encourage people to develop their own skills, instead of stealing from others. This original group was called A.M.P.t., or Advanced Mobile Photography Team, and launched on Nov. 1, 2011.
AMPteam quickly became one of the most respected groups in the world of mobile, and continued to offer tutorials, artist features, and constantly developed new initiatives. As AMPteam continued to grow, Frank saw the potential to take it to the next level, and on January 1, 2012, he launched the AMPtCommunity.com website, opening membership to the wider mobile photographic community.
The vision for AMPt from day one in it’s simplest form is to help people grow and improve as artists. That vision is still at the forefront of everything we do.
There are other similar mobile photography communities besides AMPt. What makes AMPt special in this increasingly competitive space?
Josh: AMPt Community offers something for anyone and everyone that is interested in mobile. I often call it “the Facebook for mobile photography” when I’m telling someone new about it. What I mean, is that you will find just about anything you could be looking for in a mobile photo community.
If you like forum discussions, we’ve got that. If you like to blog about mobile, you can. If you just like to look at and comment on amazing mobile images, you came to the right place. If you want to eat, sleep, and breathe mobile photography, AMPtCommunity is a great place to call home.
As far as being competitive… We promote and support all sites and communities no matter how similar they may be to AMPt Community. You can find links to some of our favorite sites right on our home page!
Todd: Yeah, I think AMPt is unique for being a “jack of all trades” so to speak. When I joined, I remember being pleasantly overwhelmed with the choices I had upon logging in. Members have access to tons of information, and access to a whole new group of people to be inspired by. The opportunity to chat in real time with mobile photographers from all over the world is a feature that I see as very important to the growth of the movement.
There are dozens of blogs, communities and even magazines about mobile photography, and our community is becoming increasingly fragmented. Is that as a good thing, or would you prefer to have one go-to resource for all things mobile photography?
Josh: Good question! My perspective is this; We all share a passion for the same thing, so we need to support each other or else we could ruin it for everyone. “Fragmented” seems so negative, I think of it as simply growing and evolving. It’s like sub-genres in music. You’re bound to see some groups that “don’t get along” with others haha.
BUT, at the end of the day the respect is there. I don’t think it’s possible to have one go-to place for all things mobile. Having such a diverse world of blogs, sites, communities etc, allows more and more people to discover mobile imagery and that, to me, is such a great thing!
AMPt Community has always been about promoting anything and everything that is progressive to the mobile movement and that’s a huge part of why I was so happy to be involved.
Todd: For me, Frank Mathews sums it up best in our AMPt Welcome letter. “Mobile photography is bigger than one individual, or popular social network. It is a movement, and we are all at the cutting edge.” We need to share and grow together.
Within just a year AMPt community has grown into one of the most respected mobile photography communities online. How do you see the development of AMPt in the future?
Josh: We all have big dreams for the future of AMPt and I think that’s a great thing. Obviously an AMPt Community app tops the list of “wants”, but we are constantly thinking of different ways to expand what we can do for the mobile photography community. Right now we are working on simply improving the functionality and features of the site. Improving the experience for our members is priority number one for 2014.
What are some the best posts and discussions on AMPt that every mobile photographer should see?
Josh: We have created a Welcome Page that is a must for anyone new. It serves to get new members acquainted with the activities that take place within the community.
It’s hard to pick any specific articles or posts since there has been so much great content uploaded by the community. I personally love the ongoing “Access Live” interview series. All of these live interviews are transcribed into a blog post afterward and can be found by typing “access live” in the search box on the main page.
I also encourage everyone to browse through the forums. You can spend hours reading through all of the great discussions that are going on.
Todd: In addition to blogs and forums, we have been hosting regular chats for our members directly on the site since the beginning. The first portion of the chat is focused on a gallery of images submitted to our challenge theme. We discuss topics like technique, apps used, and the experience of creating imagery in general.
We immediately follow up on Twitter with another set of questions and an impromptu photo challenge. It takes a chat or two to get used to following all of the comments going back and forth, but it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the site.
Where do you think mobile photography is headed in the future?
Josh: Hmmm, I think my answer to that changes every few weeks as I see everything progressing haha! I think we will find that technology continues to constantly push the limit of what a smartphone camera can capture. I think it must be similar to when digital cameras were first developed (no pun intended).
A digital SLR camera will never give you certain things that shooting with film can, but it certainly has it’s has amazing capabilities beyond what a film camera can achieve. That’s how people are already starting to feel about their smartphone cameras. There are plenty of aspects of shooting and editing where a mobile device can give you a big advantage over a DSLR.
Outside of the actual photography, I believe that mobile photography has connected people around the globe like nothing ever has. Most times when someone asks me what I love about mobile, I will forget to mention anything about taking a photo because I’m busy talking about the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned about the world.
There is a very positive and true international community that has developed and will continue to do so. I honestly think the connection of all of these people will shape the future of the world. I look back to Woodstock and the hippy movement. There is a certain parallel with that era and this mobile photography movement. I have met and befriended some of the greatest people I’ve ever known and it has changed my life. There’s something very powerful about that and I can’t wait to see where it leads.
Todd: The future is wide open at this stage of the game, but to think about how far it has come in a relatively short time is mind-blowing and exciting. We’ve gone from image sharing to image selling, from competitions to exhibitions.
Mobile will continue to give a voice to individuals that never before felt like they had one. The quality of images, both in the technical sense and in the formal sense, will continue to legitimize it as a form of artistic expression. And hopefully, it will help us all understand each other a little bit better.
Where can we sign up for AMPt Community?
Todd & Josh: That’s an easy one… AMPtCommunity.com. We manually approve each of our new members as a way to protect the community from spam and from people or organizations that have non-mobile related motivations for joining. So, please be patient if it takes a day or so to be approved. It helps speed things along if new members use a real profile photo and answer the sign up questions thoroughly. If we see a photo of a cat as a profile photo, it doesn’t make a great first impression!